It’s as if the term ‘Ploughman’s Lunch‘ has been on the archetypal village pub’s menu for several millennia but you might be astonished to find out its use started far more recently; we were! According to agreement from various sources including the BBC, the phrase ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ was first promoted by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960s. It was part of a campaign to promote the sales of cheese, especially in pubs. However the concept of the combination of ingredients is much older.
If we journey back slightly further to an edition of a magazine published by the Brewers’ Society called ‘A Monthly Bulletin’ (dated July 1956), we get a superb quote describing the activities of a group called the Cheese Bureau. It says “exists for the admirable purpose of popularising cheese and, as a corollary, the public house lunch of bread, beer, cheese and pickle. This traditional combination was broken by rationing; the Cheese Bureau hopes, by demonstrating the natural affinity of the two parties, to effect a remarriage”. The use of the phrase ‘traditional combination’ suggests this type of well balanced, locally produced food has indeed long been a part of rural folk’s diets.
Whenever this perfect meal first originated, there is one thing we feel is vital to the perfect Ploughmans Lunch: generosity. Each piece of cheese, or bread or accompaniment used must be large and chunky. Perhaps this explains why rationing and the war got in the way of our enjoyment of this unique English dish and we needed the MMB in the ’60s to remind us how good it always was.